Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tebily gone

It is difficult to be emotional about a player who only made a handful of appearances for TFC, yet it is still unfortunate that Olivier Tebily has left the team. Homesick ? Personal reasons ?
No denying he was part of the defensive success of the homestand and the depth and experience he offered lead to the trading of Pat Phelan.
What roster shuffles are ahead ???

Monday, July 28, 2008

Real Salt Lake 2 Toronto FC 1

“It is easy -- terribly easy -- to shake a man's faith in himself. To take advantage of that to break a man's spirit is devil's work.”

"If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience."
George Bernard Shaw

Sorry to start with deep thoughts tonight, but I think my faith in TFC 2008 took an earthquake shake as TFC went down to RSL and I went off the Google deep end looking for quotes to reflect my state of mind. I don't think Shaw was writing about football teams, but I need profound thinkers to help me understand why I continue to be a witness to this same mess. Twice now this month TFC has had a tie on the road with less than ten minutes to play and they were unable to defend it. The numbers in Salt Lake City, and this pains me to write, were Guevara ties the game at the 83rd minute and then Findley puts RSL ahead in the 87th.
Isn't this soccer 101 ?? You have a point in your grasp (when points have been scarce everywhere of late) and the TFC pattern of struggles on the road have been cruel and persistent. Yet, instead of marking your man and defending beyond the call of duty, Toronto then allows one of those scrambles in the box with waves of RSL midfielders coming along uncovered and the ball ends up in the net. As Brennan and Marshall lay sprawled on the ugly Utah turf on my tv screen, I'm thinking that this TFC version of Groundhog Day must be brought to an end. (That this train of thought began with George Bernard Shaw and ended with memorable Bill Murray films must be a reflection of that mental earthquake shake I suffered)
Hindsight is cheap, but Carver needs to make more changes, notably when these road results beckon. Although the bench is short, fresh legs and some tactical shifts have to be tried. Perhaps making a substitution to replace a striker with a defender or replace Robert with a defensive midfielder or something. Are the rumours that Tebily has left the team true ??
Guevara's goal from a direct kick was a thing of beauty. It has to be frustrating for that effort to go for nothing. Sure it was against the run of play, but that enhances the beauty in my books.
The arrival of a flock of strikers seems to be on the horizon, Barrett from Chicago, Dickov from his period of indecision and then a Designated Player ?? Jeff Cunningham as the second half substitute was the same old story. Is he coming on for his offensive potential ?? Well, mission accomplished, I was offended.
I must curtail my bitterness. I could make snarky observations about how television enhances the bizarre field markings of Rice-Eccles stadium. The new stadium for Real Salt Lake awaits in October and not a moment too soon.
All is not lost in TFCland. The standings have a logjam in the East with three teams joining Toronto with 22 points. The points lost to home ties and road losses may haunt the team still, but Bill Murray did learn to put the repeat cycle to his advantage eventually. Could he prove to be our designated player ?

Friday, July 25, 2008

McBride to Chicago, Barrett to TFC

Millson of the Globe and Mail is reporting that Toronto is about to get Chad Barrett from Chicago Fire in return for Brian McBride. He also suggests that a trade for Cunningham is in discussion.
The word on Barrett is not very positive, but can he miss more chances than Jeff Cunningham has ?? A gamble that most fans are willing to make. Remember too, that Edson Buddle in LA is proof that an underwhelming striker can find his touch with a change of atmosphere. It is a funny, fickle game.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Montreal Impact goes to CONCACAF - was this the jolt that Toronto needed ??

One corner kick, one second of offensive execution, was all that Montreal required to tie Toronto and go through to the next stage of CONCACAF Champions League. This mission was accomplished. TFC's continued offensive weaknesses were on display at BMO Field Tuesday night. Danny Dichio continues to be injured (concussion) and the striker spots were filled by Ibby Ibrahim (turning 17 soon), Amado Guevara, Maurice Edu (two midfielders) and Jeff Cunningham (who should simply leave town now).

Wake-up TFC, you do not have the scoring talent that would be needed to succeed in the USL. Did I boo on Saturday when Jeff Cunningham was put into the game against San Jose on Saturday ? Yes, I did. Did I yell at the tv screen when the ball actually hit Cunningham's right foot when he was inches away from the Montreal goal and he was unable to move the ball forward Tuesday night ? Yes, I did. Sure, there is an element of creating a scapegoat, making Cunningham the focus of varied offensive problems. But face it, after last night if you offered Jeff Cunningham to Montreal in a trade for a deli sandwich, you would go hungry.

Reading the papers and through the forums, it seems that my anti-Cunningham rant is restrained compared to Coach Carver's willingness to slam more than half of the team. Maybe this is a good time to let things simmer....that is the fans should vent and then shut-up and the team should zip it and take action. It is a time to jettison dead wood and bring on new growth.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

TFC ties San Jose, lost momentum and direction

Toronto FC 0 San Jose Quakes 0

Well it was tough to walk away from the stadium with a scoreless tie, but it could have been worse. It is a sad indication of this floundering season that the levels of disaster had been created and ordered before the game against San Jose had even begun.
I do not claim to be fully trained in risk assessment (although being a TFC fan may one day gain you a credit in this area) but here goes....

Deepest disaster
This would have been “San Jose clobbers Toronto with Darren Huckerby and Ronnie O’ Brien scoring multiple goals.”

Deep disaster
San Jose somehow wins

A Disaster
Either Huckerby or O’Brien score no matter what the result

A Slight disaster
Toronto with a scoreless tie
Toronto with a come from behind tie

So Toronto, by this deeply scientific measurement, comes away with a slight disaster today. TFC continues to boast an undefeated home record in MLS play this season, but boast is not the operative word here. San Jose is the expansion team of 2008 and Toronto needs to establish themselves with a team such as this and grab some points. The expansion aspect is one reason. The other reason is that Toronto will play the final league game on the road in San Jose. I guess it is a sign that I still have hope for the season that I am calculating the impact of the rematch way off in October.

But back to the present. The first half began with energy, Toronto had more shots in the first fifteen minutes than in any other game that I can recall. Ibby Ibrahim even had a goal that was called offside (my sources say that the television replay indicated the call was wrong). The turning point came when Amado Guevara had the ball off of a bouncing corner kick and seemed to have the net wide open. He managed to miss.

TFC always had the upper hand in today’s contest. Excellent ball movement and growing control in the midfield. Tyler Rosenlund was a starter and I think it was mistake to substitute him in the second half. It seemed that there was less driving forward from the centre of the field once he was gone. Of course it does not help that his replacement was Jeff Cunningham (Cunningham to striker, Guevara back into the midfield and Rosenlund off). I was not happy to see JC 96 take the field. Not happy is putting it far too mildly. I was mad, I see his arrival as a gesture of throwing in the towel. He is not going to be late game hero. Jeff Cunningham has been given more opportunities to be an anytime hero and has botched them all. He qualifies for villain status. This is not a positive, not a “Heath Ledger explores the human condition through evil “ kind of villain. This is get out of that uniform, get out of town and get out of my life kind of villainy.
I am getting distracted by my anti JC 96 rant and I do not want to place the lack of scoring punch problem at the feet of only one player.
Guevara had a matching miss in the second half as he had a penalty kick saved by Joe Cannon of San Jose. Missed the rebound too...
When the pk was awarded I started to scan my memory for the last time TFC had a penalty awarded to them and I ended up back with Collin Samuels in Columbus. . So it was not a total surprise that these chances are squandered in the TFC universe. The miss in Columbus ended Samuels time in Toronto. It is unfortunate that Jeff Cunningham was not on the field at the time of today’s pk miss.
What lies ahead ? Edu did not play today because of his yellow card accumulation, but he and Marvell Wynne are gone for a month on their Olympic journey. Mistake by the Lake land wishes them well. TFC will struggle to replace Wynne (although it will be an opportunity for Julius James and Olivier Tebilly). Edu has had a woeful season, always seeming to be playing against the memory of his rookie success
and has been developing a concrete touch.
It appears that he is playing as a defender not a midfielder for the American Olympic team. I am not sure that this is a positive development. I am even hopeful that TFC acquires enough offensive talent that Edu could become a depth player rather than a starter. I am not holding my breath on that front.
Random thoughts
- happy that Darren Huckerby looked ok at best and will take time to adjust to MLS play
- thought that Ronnie O’Brien and Laurent Robert were both going to boil over in the first half. I did not see what sparked their displeasure, but think that Robert was lucky to avoid a yellow

-Trout FC observes that Rohan Ricketts may miss Marvell Wynne more than most as their play making progress has been encouraging.
-No mistakes in the back four and Greg Sutton has another shutout to his credit. It is funny that defensive success depends so much on offensive output. Only one goal for Toronto and we would be a thousand times happier with keeping San Jose off the score sheet.

- Montreal on Tuesday for CONCACAF title, All Stars vs West Ham,Real Salt Lake on the road, home to Dallas, away to Colorado and that has us well into August.
- I did get a box of the free sample whole wheat pasta but missed out on the razor offer. I guess that is symbolic of the whole day now isn't it ???

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Toronto FC vs. Independiente Bring out the young talent?!

This was an important match for me. You might question this, “A friendly? A big game?” John Carver wants to display his ‘second string’ talent, so, it seems, does Still Kicking. Therefore, at long last I have cracked the starting line-up of the Mistake by the Lake TFC blog! What an honour to be asked to do some first hand reporting in lieu of the big man himself! I see a big parallel between the players in this game and myself, if I work hard, report and opine with skill and confidence, I may be rewarded with another appearance in a more important game, not unlike Abbe Ibrahim. If I perform poorly, the comparisons will be to Andrea Lombardo instead.
After four of these friendlies I am really beginning to question the whole concept. Yes, it’s a really nice idea to have a “big name” club come to town (although mid table Argentinean teams arguably don’t fit that bill). Yes, it’s helpful to the opposing club in starting its pre season warm ups. And, yes it’s nice to get your younger, untested players field time against higher level opponents. But, really, does anyone care? I don’t think the Independiente players did. My pregame research indicated that I should be watching Ismael Sosa and Pablo Vitti but all they really looked up to was showing Maurice Edu how to simulate a foul in the penalty area. Now, they did put together the game’s only goal, and a nice bit of work it was, crossed in from a free kick by Sosa and put away nicely by Vitti, but that only took about five seconds of a ninety minute game. The only other Independiente player to catch my eye was Fabian Assmann. He had a few nice saves, but wow! That name! Congratulations to him, he replaces the Rapids’ Christian Burpo as starting goal keeper on my team of players who would get you a red card if you said their name with the wrong tone on the playing field. Yes, I will be happy if TFC signs Paul Dickov and ecstatic if we sign Kaka (I’m buying beer if you can convince him to wear number 2). The Argentinean’s performance really reminds me of Benfica last year, you knew they had talent and you knew they just weren’t showing it to you. When you go to see an Argentinean team you expect some trickery and some lovely ball control skills to be on display, for my mind the best player in that department was…Jerrod Smith, take that, Los Diablos Rojos. For all my complaining, I must note that it all looks very easy for the Argentine players, the passing was sharp and mostly perfect, they just looked like they didn’t fancy too much hard work.
For the flip side, see TFC. Here’s the starting line-up: Edwards, James, Gala, Attakora-Gyan, Hemming, Edu, Melo, Rosenlund, Ibrahim, Cunningham, Smith. Lots of hard workers out there but not nearly as talented as Independiente or our first team. The first team players in the squad generally looked very skilled and confident; the exception was Cunningham, who seems to be able to miss chances against any level of opponent. You know, if Mo trades him to the Galaxy, next year he might be in the running for the golden boot too! This was the first time I had seen Ibrahim play, having missed the Pachuca and Chicago matches, boy, did I miss something. He seems bigger, stronger and more confident than his sixteen years; I think this game might have secured him another chance at a real game in the near future. Other surprises for me were the “unnamed” substitutes in the second half (apparently Mo didn’t want to pay the $20 to have their jerseys personalized prior to the game). Number 19, Frank Jonke and Number 8, Murphy Wiredu both seemed to work very hard to get into positive attacking positions, especially Wiredu. We may have never heard of these guys before, and we never may hear of them again (and who knows where they came from), but it’s nice to know that the team’s depth is a little greater than it was last year. I’m sure Still Kicking would have been pleased to see Brian Edwards come tearing out of the penalty area to clear a ball that would have been very dangerous otherwise. I think I agree with John Carver, one day he is going to be a great keeper, unfortunately it probably won’t be with us.

There is one thing left to ponder, and your guess is as good as mine, how does another loss (at Fortress BMO too) effect the mood of the players? By my count this is three in a row at home, with several on the road as well. What will it take to get the team out of this skid? New players from abroad? A weak team to visit BMO? I’ve got good news, San Jose is up on Saturday, and they’re a weak team, aren’t they? Question, will Mo and John be on their way out the door if Huckerby scores 4?


Free photos for websites -

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fire 2 TFC 1 - road results remain elusive

What is this call to glory ? goes that commercial over and over. Too bad that glory is on hold until TFC learns how to handle these road games. What new way to raise and then dash hopes will the team create tonight ? -could be the opener for the next commercial . I guess the call to glory involves patience and wisdom...
You must salute the road trip warriors, those fans who travelled to Chicago to support the team by the hundreds. If I turn on the television with a little bit of dread because of the road record, how many levels above that are these faithful travellers on this TFC road to glory ?

The short story is that TFC lost to the Fire in Chicago Saturday night. It looked good for a while in the second half. Coach Carver is clearly in search of solutions for the scoring problems. Jarrod Smith had the start, but he was replaced as striker by the rookie Abdus Ibrahim for the second half. What a debut, Ibrahim scored Toronto's goal to pull level. He also had a great shot that was just parried by Jon Busch. He deserves to start.

Chicago struck early. Rolfe scored in the sixth minute (I guess that means TFC will get Barrett in the McBride deal).
Toronto struggled and clawed their way back into the game. A series of unfortunate events followed. Edu gets a yellow for diving. I have had complaints about Edu's lack of offense, but diving ?? This has not been a part of his game. The ref was out to lunch. Edu also hit the woodwork on another chance. Edu played his best half of the season.

Carver shifted the team around for the second. Julius James came out, Jim Brennan shifted back to the back four and Rohan Ricketts was added to the midfield in addition to the Ibrahim for Smith swap.

Hindsight department - Guevara took a knock and Robert is not the strongest defender, perhaps TFC needed one more substitution to shore up the defense in the late going ??
Signing rejection department - Globe and Mail ace Larry Millson reported today that TFC has had their bid for Portugese international Nuno Gomes turned down. Just wonder if this is the end of the story ??

Thursday, July 10, 2008

TFC stumbles to a messy tie in Vancouver, 2-2

Trying to keep my positive side up - at least TFC have a chance to finish strong against Montreal later this month. It is simple, win and they're in. In, of course, is to be the Canadian club champs and play in the Concacaf Champions League. Yet judging by the performance in Vancouver, the negatives could easily get to you... They broke through with two goals, Edu and Ricketts scored in the second half from positive passing attacks.
Those two goals had TFC in position to finish off the Whitecaps. Then the plot fell apart. Marco Velez was injured late in the game. Kevin Harmse was brought in and played his usual midfield spot and Maurice Edu dropped back into the defending role. I have never seen Edu play as a defender and the Vancouver second goal was the result of Edu misplaying the ball back to Sutton in net. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. Julius James had played a superb game, as had Tyrone Marshall. TV does limit your view of the play, so it is hard to find fault with the formation. Why not pack the back and preserve the win ??
We Toronto FC fans were still smarting from the loss to Vancouver on Canada Day at BMO. Judging from the comments of Coach Carver, the team was not happy either. So the pressure was on Toronto to roar back and play their way back into contention in the return game in British Columbia. This time Toronto showed up for the first half. It was a pleasant surprise to see a flow to the TFC attack, all players moving with determination and showing crisp passing. Vancouver was always able to counter, but TFC was on their game.
Yet, Toronto continued their frustrating ways around the net. The chances were created, but near misses was the best they could muster in the first half. Vancouver scored a goal late in the half (Eddie Sebrango 42) and one thought it was going to be another night of watching TFC bang their heads against a wall.
The joy of the two goal second half performance was smashed by the crummy ending. If Coach Carver needs guidance on how to do well against Montreal (or any team for that matter) I share it gladly, DON"T PLAY JEFF CUNNINGHAM.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Pachuca wins on penalty kicks after 1-1 game

It would have been nice to be there, but .....following the game on MLS Match Tracker and then discovering that Larry Millson was live blogging on the Globe (until the 65th minute ????) was all this fan could do. I am a huge fan of Larry Millson, best soccer reporter in these parts.
Julius James scored the TFC goal in the game.
Jeff Cunningham missed his penalty kick, please make this guy toast. Brennan and Harmse were the other Toronto players who did not score in penalty kicks (did anyone accomplish the John Terry slip ???)
Tyler Hemmings, Kevin Harmse, Tyler Rosenlund, Abdus Ibrahum, Nana Attakora were all starters. Robert, Ricketts, Brennan were among the few regulars who started.
Sutton played the first half and Edwards had the second.
There are reports that Andrea Lombardo was released.
Nothing new on the Dickov and Huckerby pursuit .....

I would gladly trade this loss tonight for a resounding victory in Vancouver this Wed.

Until then ...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Vancouver WhiteCaps beat TFC 1-0 or education continues even though school is out

Toronto FC hosted the Vancouver Whitecaps in a Canada Day match-up at BMO. The Whitecaps took the lead on a penalty kick in the first half. The kick was awarded after a foul was detected by the ref during a corner kick. I did not see it myself, but my eyes were following the path of the ball coming in.......( I would love to see a replay. If it was a dubious borderline call, I am predicting the same will happen as a make-up upon the return match in BC).
Once Vancouver had their goal, you sensed that the script was set. Vancouver would defend like crazy and hope for the rare counter-attack and Toronto would bang on the door for the rest of the afternoon. We all know how good TFC is at banging on the door. There was a handful of opportunities, a scattering of saves and Jeff Cunningham scored and had his effort called back on an offside. Another replay please to be sure before I throw my opinion around, but ....

Coach Carver is getting into the habit of making wholesale changes for the second half. Today he made his three at the half. Rohan Ricketts was replaced by Julius James, Danny Dichio by Jeff Cunningham and Jarrod Smith for Lauren Robert. The Ricketts move meant that Jim Brennan played the left wing for the second half. All of the substitutes had their moments, but no goals is still no goals.
Switching three at a time raises some questions. Is this an indication that the Coach is trying to expand his squad or is it a sign of panic when the team fails to score ?

TFC has now played twice in this Canadian Championship, hosting Vancouver today and playing in Montreal last month. Over those two games they have scored one goal and allowed one goal. If this was against MLS teams, it may seem an acceptable result. The fact that this games are against USL teams has many wondering. Should we say that TFC are a team compatible with the lower league or praise the other Canadian teams as being better than expected.

So what have we learned ?? Toronto continues to have a goal scoring crisis.

Give Vancouver credit, they followed the plan on how to grab a road win perfectly. This was the type of performance that Toronto fans wanted to see last Saturday when playing New England. Take your opportunity and then hold on for dear life.
Now Toronto has to come on strong in this competition. Montreal has two victories with only one more game to play. Toronto has one victory with two more games to play.

Next game is home on the weekend against Pachuca of Mexico.